There are only two things you need to know about the new Netflix wrestling show GLOW before you watch it. First, yes, this really happened. GLOW is based on the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, a real wrestling show that aired from 1986 until 1990. Second, you need to know a little about the ‘80s to get a deeper understanding of the show’s characters and story. So, these are the notable ‘80s pop culture moments in GLOW that you need to know about before you binge like a champion.
Warning: mild spoilers
Nobody Looks Cool Doing Aerobics. Ever.
The aerobics fitness craze of the ‘80s was everything, and we have Jane Fonda to thank. The only thing you need to know about aerobics is the unfortunate fashion that came along with it: leotards, tights, and legwarmers.
GLOW uses fashion as a device from the moment it begins. At the start of episode one, Ruth (Allison Brie) and Debbie (Betty Gilpin) meet up at an aerobics class. Thanks to their clothes, and the ridiculous aerobics they’re doing together, we immediately know what time it is. It’s the ‘80s, and these two are bosom buddies.
Bash’s Drug Robot Is A Lot Like Johnny 5 from Short Circuit
Thanks to iconic ‘80s sci-fi film Short Circuit starring Brat Pack-er Ally Sheedy, everyone in the ‘80s wanted their own robot as a bff. In GLOW, Bash (Chris Lowell) lives a fancy Hollywood life, with a robot, obvi. The only thing you need to know about this robot is that it’s a lot like Johnny 5 from Short Circuit. Amirite?
Papa, Did I Just Hear Yentl?
The most commonly known song from Barbra Streisand’s hit cinematic musical Yentl is “Papa, Can You Hear Me?”. However, halfway through the movie, Yentl sings about the most important moment of her life: getting what she wants because she pretended to be male instead of female.
In episode 6, Ruth sings “One of Those Moments” from Yentl. At the time, Ruth is figuring out her wrestling character. She sings as if channeling Yentl’s moment of success, even though her own has not yet arrived. Lucky for Ruth, whatever she decides to be, she can do it as a woman, even though wrestling was predominantly male.
Bon Jovi, Roxette, Billy Joel, and Scorpions Walk Into a Bar…
It sounds like the start of a joke, right? Between big hair bands rocking everyone like a hurricane, and Billy Joel singing about moving out, ‘80s radio was a diverse mix of good music and music so bad it was good. We’ll let you decide what’s what, but as you watch GLOW, you may find yourself inspired to apply excessive amounts of lipstick, neon eye shadow, and tough-as-nails hairspray while rocking out to Swedish pop duo Roxette’s 1989 hit “The Look”. The GLOW soundtrack is a perfect representation of ‘80s radio.
Just Say No
The “War on Drugs” began in the ‘80s, when Nancy Reagan launched the “Just Say No” campaign, encouraging kids to walk away from drug use by just.saying.no. The campaign backfired and Just Say No TV commercials were widely parodied, frequently mocked for being completely ineffective.
In the show, the GLOW wrestlers find themselves at an out-of-touch wealthy socialite’s fundraiser for the Just Say No campaign. The ladies pretend to be drug addicts in an effort to raise money, yet not one of them is battling addiction.
The Cold War Was Still a Thing and It Was Weird
In the ‘80s, Russia wasn’t Russia. It was the communist Soviet Union, still embroiled in a Cold War with the West. Many residents wanted to leave the Soviet Union but were denied, and soon, their stories started to make it to the USA. Refugees (defectors), like famed dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, escaped the Soviet Union. While Americans were regularly taught safety measures in case of nuclear war through adverts and drills in public schools, stories from defectors permeated the nightly televised news. Everyone watched the nightly news, because, well, there wasn’t any internet. Yet.
All the best wrestling matches are between good guys and bad guys. In both the real Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling and the fictionalized Netflix show, one of the wrestlers takes on a slavic persona. “Zoya” is a communist from the Soviet Union, and the ultimate heel. In every match, Zoya-from-the-Soviet-Union is booed, highlighting the cheers heard for her counterpart, “Lady Liberty”. Everybody hates Zoya, which is good for ratings if you’re one of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling on TV.
PMS, and the Worst Years in Tampon History
That’s right, GLOW is a show about the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, and in the ‘80s PMS was just starting to enter the common vernacular. This opened the door for women to start talking openly about this normal thing that happens to all of us, whether we like it or not.
The early ‘80s were also the worst years in tampon history when scientists discovered the link between tampons and Toxic Shock Syndrome. Soon after the discovery, the dangers of using tampons were widely publicized, and warnings appeared everywhere a feminine product could be found.
In episode 8, the gorgeous ladies speak openly and honestly about their menstrual cycles in the wrestling gym locker room, including both PMS and Toxic Shock Syndrome. GLOW captures the essence of femininity when the women bond with each other by discussing a health issue which only happens to women. A male wrestler just wouldn’t understand.
Roger Moore Is the Best. Bond. Ever.
In which scatterbrained wrestler Rhonda Richardson (Kate Nash), whose wrestling persona is the very intelligent “Britannica” declares what we already know now, but was news then. 1985 was Roger Moore’s last Bond film, and a new Bond was on the way. When engaged in a conversation about James Bond, Rhonda Richardson is up for the debate. For the first time in the entire show, Rhonda is the wisest character on screen, using Moonraker as proof that Roger Moore was, and always will be, the best Bond ever. Boom. Mic drop.